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'We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy.' Paul puts the brakes on Ukraine aid package, citing cost

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/AP
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Sen. Rand Paul threw a wrench into efforts to rush $40 billion in additional aid to Ukraine this week, thwarting an initiative backed by his fellow Kentucky senator, Mitch McConnell.

Paul blocked speedy passage of the aid package, arguing no matter how sympathetic the cause, U.S. lawmakers should be keeping their focus on spending here at home.

"If this gift to Ukraine passes, our total aid to Ukraine will almost equal the entire military budget of Russia, and it's not as if we have that money laying around. We will have to borrow that money from China to send it to Ukraine."
Sen. Rand Paul

The Kentucky senator isn't alone in wandering aloud whether the pace and scope of aid to Ukraine is sustainable — and whether it's receiving enough scrutiny and helping Ukrainians where they need it the most.

"Their burn rate with lethal aid has been high, as long as we're providing them what they actually need and can use," Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said of the aid. "And then when it comes to humanitarian supplies, we need to make sure it's what they can use in the specific areas that need it."

NPR reports the structure of the emergency aid has made it difficult for lawmakers to know exactly how the money is being spent.

Paul held up the process because he wanted a provision added that would employ an Inspector General "with a great record of tracking wasteful spending in Afghanistan" to oversee the money flowing into Ukraine. Not doing so would be, according to Paul, a “slap in the face to the millions of taxpayers who are struggling to buy gas, groceries, and find baby formula.”

The senator continued in a follow-up tweet, saying the bill will pass eventually without him, but it should at least include oversight.

Regarding the $40 billion package, Senate GOP leader McConnell, a supporter, argued that Ukraine’s fortunes are closely tied to U.S. interests.

"It bears directly on America's national security and vital interests that Russia's naked aggression not succeed," McConnell said.

Paul’s position came under fire from Democrats as well, including potential opponent Charles Booker, who tweeted that the Republican "opposes aid to Ukraine for the same reason he opposes relief here at home: he doesn’t think our government has a responsibility to help anyone but his super wealthy friends."

Reliably skeptical when it comes to America’s military involvement and spending overseas, the libertarian-leaning Republican argues the U.S. is $30 trillion in debt and should focus its spending priorities domestically.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.